1. NAME TAGS
Kids can keep track of what they’re growing by crafting cute washi tape flags and jotting down plant names onto them.
YOU WILL NEED
- Rolls of plain washi tape
- Wooden takeaway chopsticks or long kebab sticks
- Cut a piece of washi tape to the length you’d like your flag to be
- Wrap that piece of washi in half around the top of the chopstick or kebab stick
- Trim further if it’s too long and cut a small triangle out of the centre to make a flag shape
- Write down the name of the herb or plant and stick the chopstick into the soil so that the flag sits above the top leaves
TIPS - If your child can’t yet read, come up with a colour code together that will help identify the different plants: orange for rosemary, pink for mint, yellow for tomatoes, green for lettuce and so on. Vary the shapes of the flags for interest.
2. HAIR RAISING
Let kids decorate their own plastic pots with cute faces and then fill them with succulents and indoor plants to resemble funky hairstyles.
YOU WILL NEED
- Plain white plastic pots
- Succulents or indoor plants
- Permanent markers
- Give the kids their own pots and let them have free reign in drawing faces with permanent marker
- Help them fill the pots with soil and their chosen plants
- Leave the potty personalities indoors or on the balcony in a good spot and let them take care of the watering (and cutting back if necessary)
TIPS - Avoid succulents with small thorns that can stick in little hands. Herbs such as chives, parsley, rosemary, thyme and basil also make for funny-looking hairdos and can be left on the kitchen windowsill for regular trimming to use in cooking or munching. Older children can use ceramic markers on terracotta pots to design pretty patterns or more elaborate drawings.
3. GROWTH SPURTS
Let children observe the magic of how a cutting grows its roots – a quick way to propagate plants for free and a valuable lesson in caring for appreciating just how awesome nature really is.
YOU WILL NEED
- A sterilised medium-sized glass bottle
- Cuttings from healthy plants that will root easily without nursery-bought rooting hormones. Try species such as African violet, geranium, mint, wandering Jew, impatiens and philodendron.
- Help your kids cut a 10-15cm section of stem from a healthy-looking plant by making a clean, angled snip above a leaf node
- Let them remove leaves from the bottom 1/3 or half of the cutting so you are left with a bare stalk and a few leaves on the top section
- Put the cutting in the bottle of water, submerging only the leafless stem
- Place the bottle in a place that gets partial sunlight and that is neither too hot or cold
- Once the roots are several inches long the cutting is ready to transplant into soil
TIPS - Keep the water topped up and replace once a week or sooner if it becomes cloudy. Let the kids feel like mini scientists by displaying their cuttings in test tube vases or beakers. Upcycled chutney, ketchup and glass soda bottles filled with cuttings, displayed en masse from a metal frame, will create an eye-catching decorative element. >>
4. LET’S BE FRONDS
You say potato, I say beautiful indoor plant… The trailing, vine-like leaves of a sweet potato make for a whimsical and unusual addition to your collection of indoor plants. Kids will take pride in knowing that they have grown something so unusual and, quite frankly, cool.
YOU WILL NEED
- A few healthy, wrinkle-free sweet potatoes – even better if little sprouts are beginning to shoot out of the sweet potato ‘eyes’
- Clean glass jars and bottles with wide enough necks to place the potatoes into.
- Fill the jars almost to the top with water and place the bottom of the sweet potato into it so that it is resting in the water
- Keep at least the top 1/3 of the potato out of the water
- Place in a sunny or semi-sunny spot and wait for the magic to happen
- Vines with stems will begin to sprout in a few weeks
TIPS - Maintain the health of your sweet potato vines and the mother plant by keeping the water in your container clean. Change once a week or when it becomes murky.Snip off any vines that have started to brown and wither.
5. ROOTS & SHOOTS
Put your zero waste lifestyle aspirations into practice by showing kids that it’s entirely possible – and super-simple – to re-grow new organic vegetables from scraps.
YOU WILL NEED
- Small glass container, deep dish or a drinking glass / small pots
- Garlic cloves / the thick base of a celery
To regrow celery:
- Once you have used all the stalks on your bunch of celery, place the base in a container, deep dish or glass with clean, room-temperature water
- Leave the on the windowsill or somewhere that the base will get gentle sunlight
- New leaves should start to grow within five days
- Once the leaves are a little bigger, you can transfer your celery base into a pot filled with potting soil
- Plant the base in the soil with the leaf tips exposed and place in a spot that gets generous sunlight
- Water regularly
- After a week or two you should see stalks start to emerge
To regrow garlic:
- Try to buy organic garlic to begin with. This should ensure that it has not been chemically treated which often prevents sprouting
- Fill a pot with potting soil and plant cloves (sprouting or not) around 1-2cm down so they are covered
- Leave on a sunny windowsill or spot on the balcony or in the garden
- Water regularly but do not soak the soil or the cloves will rot
- Your garlic sprouts should start to push through the soil after about a month
- After several months you should notice hard, grass-like leaves growing from the centre of the plant
- Once these start to curl and brown, your garlic is ready to harvest
TIPS - In the initial stages of growing celery from the base, keep the water that it is in clear and fresh. The process of regrowth can be repeated indefinitely for both vegetables.
Spring onions (also known as green onions) and chives can be regrown by cutting them about 10 cm from the base of the root and standing them in a glass of clean water on a sunny windowsill.
WORDS Mandy Allen PRODUCTION Jeanne Botes PHOTOGRAPHY Warren Heath/Bureaux